Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Seriously, he was misunderstood....we think. The situation is really not clear at all.

    So, Nixon has always had issues playing with (and not just around) other kids. He'll start running away and just expect them to chase him because....well it's what he thinks should happen. He doesn't feel the need to seek out his peers approval, which is probably why he is unfazed when his classmates react negatively to his behaviors when he's acting "inappropriate" in the classroom. He doesn't understand that he should be bothered so he isn't bothered.

   This all brings me to today:
Mac and I were out running errands while Nixon was in school. Around 12:20 Mac's phone rang and it was the Vice Principal to "share with you Nixon's behaviors today", which is code for "Your kid's been an asshole and we need to tell you about it" in Mac and I's eyes because that's the feeling we end up with at the end of these phone calls from school.

    Apparently, Nixon was playing in the classroom with scissors. He was telling a classmate he was going to be the barber and cut hair. He had scissors in his hand as he said this, but from what we've been told, did not actually cut anything.
    To Mac and I, this was Nixon's pretend play.
    To the school, Nixon was a threat to other children and was removed from the classroom. For the day. Only to see his classmates at lunch.
    We asked if he was going to rejoin his class at some point during the day, and we were told "Not likely. We need Nixon to understand that this is not appropriate behavior and being away from his class for the day is, hopefully, going to make that point very clear." I get that. I know the other kids didn't realize Nixon was playing pretend, and we don't even know that he was, but the impression we were given was he was smiling and laughing when saying he was the barber.

    When we picked him up from school, I approached the teacher's aide and asked her about the situation. Unfortunately, this happened before she was back in the school from directing traffic. Which means this happened before the school day even officially started!

    I've sent his teacher an email about the incident, hoping to get a little more info about the entire situation. It just seems to us that, if he didn't actually hurt anyone, then keeping him outside of the class for the entire day is excessive. Nixon came home very sad and subdued.
I wanted to cheer him up after school Silly faces in the back seat seemed the ticket!

   In other news, I think we were getting a phone call today regardless of Nixon's behavior. There's some concern, among the administrators, about Nixon's reaction to Friday's Halloween events. So much so, we were asked for ways to "ease Nixon's anxiety or stress" so everyone can enjoy the day. Translation?: We're expecting him to ruin it by getting to overstimulated and you must have an answer to this, right?
    We didn't. The only suggestion I'd come up with was giving Nixon permission to call us if he felt overwhelmed. Friday's going to be a low-structure day. Lots of activities very little academics and a parade.
    The Vice Principal called tonight and asked if one of us (Mac or myself) would be available *side note I can never spell that word correctly!, like never!!* to come to the school and walk with Nixon during the parade. It eventually turned into "How long would Mrs. Ball be able to stay?", which eventually became: I'll be with Nixon for the entire (short day, they have 2-hour early dismissal) school day. I'll sign in and be with him for the day. The administration seems to think this will be a big help. I'm not so certain. This is going to go one of two ways: really, really good or really, really, really bad.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

Facing life and laughing along the way

   "Screw it"
Nixon has learned to use this phrase in perfect context. Last week, one day on the drive home from school we were sitting at a red light. On the opposite side of the street from us, Nixon saw a motorcycle turning around. Or so he thought. It was really a motorcycle leaving the gas station and making a left turn out of said gas station.
Nixon says, from the back seat, "Look, Mom. That guy said screw it. Is that okay for me to say?" I tell him he can say it but only in the car or the house around Mac or I.

   "The B-word"
Mac and I were having a totally random conversation about something-or-another, and Nixon pipes in with "She's a B-word". Just that, not the whole word, just "B-word". Again, in perfect context and seamless conversation flow! I'm awed by his delivery of these things lately.

  "Do I have to cut them all out or can I just paste this page under the M?"
This happened at school.
Last week, Nixon had a class assignment that required him to cut all the words that started with Ah sounds then paste under the letter "A" and words that start with M sounds then paste under the letter "M". Nixon noticed that the Ah sounds were on the top of the page and M sounds on the bottom. He raised his hand and asked if he had to cut all the M sounds out or if he could just paste the bottom of the page under the M.
I don't know what his teacher said. The teacher's aide that works with Nixon said none of the other kids in his class really understood what he saw or the question he was asking. Nixon loves mazes and puzzles and I think he just looked at this like a puzzle and solved it for the easiest point of completion.

    We have a meeting Wednesday, this week, to begin the IEP and screening process. Hopefully this is the beginning to getting answers on what is "wrong" with Nixon. I put it in quotes because, of course, I don't think there's anything truly wrong with Nixon. We're all searching for answers or labels to get the help we know he needs.  

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The day after his suspension and some progress is made

    Nixon was suspended from school on Thursday. Mac was great and kept him on as close of a school schedule as possible. I was working and decided not to take the day off as it would send the wrong message to Nixon about the severity of his actions.

    Friday, before Nixon could return to his classroom, we had to all have a meeting (and introduction) with his principal. She'd been out on medical leave since before the start of the school year, which meant she barely knows Nixon and has never met Mac or myself before.
    We went back to the meeting room and waited for the vice principal to arrive. When she did the principal addressed Nixon, who was sitting between Mac and I across the table from his teacher and the vice principal.
   His principal starts asking Nixon if he likes school ("yes"), did he miss school ("A lot!") and if he knows why his behavior was wrong (Nixon said "I made bad choices"). She went on to tell him his actions and decisions were not okay for a school environment and that she didn't want to suspend him, but her hands were tied...the entire conversation was carried on as though Nixon's actions were all made by choice and something he could control. This resulted in me holding Nixon's hand and softly touching his cheek, just reassuring him he was not "bad". I was also shooting Mac looks letting him know I'm close to losing my shit on this woman, but he didn't notice because he was also focused on Nixon.
   I finally felt the need to say something. I came armed with a printout of an article I found  that I felt would help the school understand Nixon and his behaviors a little more, so they might stop thinking of him as an angry and disruptive child. I slid the pages to the principal and said "I think this might help you see that Nixon isn't acting like this on purpose, but instead  is reacting to over stimulation." The principal let Nixon return to his class and we continued the conversation from there.
   Let me say this: I'm truly beginning to despise his teacher. From the very beginning she's had a negative tone and attitude about Nixon. She's expressed herself, numerous times, and voiced her feelings on Nixon "he exhibits behaviors I've never seen in a child his age in all my years of teaching" (and that was not a compliment). But during this meeting, she admitted to contacting other people for help on "dealing with Nixon and his behaviors". I'm glad she sought help, but this also reaffirms my belief that she has NO experience with children on the spectrum. The principal insisted the school has experience with spectrum children, but his teacher was silent when Mac asked the question.

    From there the principal asked what we were doing for Nixon. I explained (again!) the appointments we've made to get him screened. She explains that the school can do those tests, with our permission. Nixon's name is well-known in the school and the IEP (individualized education program) board is aware of his issues. Apparently the board has to vote on going further to get a child tested. I'm pretty sure Nixon will be unanimously approved.
    In addition to that, if he is found to be on the spectrum and have Asperger's, the school will have to develop an IEP for Nixon that will set him up for success, even if it means giving him his own aide daily to work with him one-on-one. (As it was, once again, mentioned to us that Nixon basically has an aide that works just with him but that the school can't "justify" that assignment to the board as he has no IEP.)
   Mac and I agreed to the IEP board vote. From there, the board will meet with us and explain the screening procedures. Nixon will be tested and meet with behaviorists and child psychiatrists as part of those tests. From there, they will determine if/where he falls on the spectrum and there will be another meeting to share the results. After that they will put together an IEP and present that to us (at yet, another, meeting).

    Basically, we're going to get to know the school administration staff real well over the next couple months. We're also going to continue to pursue the screening through Nixon's doctors in order to get any future therapies he may need covered by Mac's insurance.

    I'd like to say, Nixon had a good day Friday. That was not the case. We don't know why, but last week was an awful week for Nixon. Something was different and it was setting him off. His teacher insists everything is the same and the issue is with Nixon.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

"So, your Kindergartner has been suspended from's that make you feel?" And other questions I'm asking myself this week.

    Yesterday was a less than stellar day for Nixon, at school.

     Let's begin with last week. We had a meeting at school about Nixon. I thought I had helped getting the point across on how to help prevent meltdowns. We were told the classroom aid that has been spending most of her days with Nixon (keeping him on task, helping redirect him and avoid meltdowns) was going to be "weaned" from his classroom so she can focus on the two classrooms she was assigned to. I voiced my concern that if the "wean" went too quickly, Nixon will react negatively. Too much change too quickly will overwhelm him. I was assured that it would not be abrupt and every effort would be made to prevent Nixon from getting too anxious over this change. While I briefed him every day of the change, the school (evidently) decided 2 days of less interaction was enough and Tuesday they removed her altogether.

   Tuesday was a bad day for Nixon.

   Wednesday was a fucking catastrophe! He was fine for most of the day, but after recess he threw a fit so bad the rest of the students were removed to keep them safe. Now, he wasn't attacking kids, but he was throwing things at and around his teacher who was in the middle of circle time and surrounded by the other kids.
    He pinched his teacher when she attempted to take something from him.
   They called the aid he knew in, during the middle of this tantrum, and eventually he calmed down. He cleaned up his mess and returned to the classroom the remainder of the day.

   I got the phone call from the principal, who just returned from medical leave and admitted to "not knowing the Nixon-situation", as if he's a condition or illness. She went on to describe the incident and explained he was being suspended for the following day, because of his actions. She voiced concern of what she labeled "his escalation of violence", I'm assuming this is based on his teacher's reports as the woman had just admitted not 2 minutes prior, that she was not familiar with Nixon, nor had she met him yet.
    I asked a few questions and explained some things about Nixon. She knew nothing about anything we've told the other members of the school administration who were present at the meeting last week!

   Mac picked Nixon up from school yesterday. Nixon was quiet and ended up taking a nap. I came home and we talked, a little, when he woke up. After an hour or two, Nixon went to Mac and told him about the day.
   Nixon came to me and said he was upset because it was line up time (at the end of recess). He got upset because he didn't have time to prepare for the end of recess. (We had just told his teacher how Nixon will respond more positively if he's given a warning to prepare for the transition to another activity at the meeting last week, because it's a trigger for him)
   He admitted to throwing, pinching and yelling. He didn't deny any of it, which he does a lot. He tattles on himself!

    I'm so beyond pissed! I'm feeling like his teacher has no regards for the assistance I've been offering from the beginning of school! I requested a meeting the first full week of school! I never get a response from her, even emails take her 2-4 days to reply to! She's had an air about her (regarding Nixon) since she learned he's an only child. ("Oh, an only child. Hmmmm?" was her exactly reaction after learning he has no siblings)

    I'm beating myself up because I feel like I'm failing him, but it's the only reaction I have to his teacher being so negative. She refers to him as "angry" in notes home. I'm worried she has no real experience with working a child on the autism spectrum and it's looking like Nixon has Asperger's, a high-functioning form of autism. Most of the times he's fine, but when stressed or agitated he'll flip his shit! I can't force the school to accept my word, based on research and my knowing Nixon like I do, so we're exhausting all avenues of getting any kind of official diagnosis.
   Days like yesterday make me want to throttle his teacher! This whole suspension bullshit, may have been avoided altogether if she'd given a warning that recess was coming to an end.

    And yes, I realize she has 15-19 other kids in her class. And yes, I understand she can't give Nixon her constant attention. But, motherfucker, if the teacher/principal/school shrink all sat in a room and asked me for tips to help prevent these agitated states from happening, I'm going to be pissed when I learn from MY CHILD, that less than a week later the tips are already being ignored and he's having a full-on meltdown because of it!

    It's exhausting.

Monday, October 6, 2014

This is difficult, but I'm not ashamed

    Nixon's school year has been...less than stellar thus far. He's struggling every day with transitioning in the classroom and taking direction when he's not ready to move to a new task. He's has had more than one quasi-violent outburst and he regularly gets removed from the classroom because he's a distraction with his disruptive acts. (He'll get bored and run around the classroom, or he'll start screaming)

   His teacher, from the very beginning of school, has voiced her "concern" over Nixon's behavior. And by "concern" I mean, once mentioned she had a child expelled from Kindergarten because he couldn't adjust and then mentioned suspension less than a week later. She's told me that she is seeing bahviors in Nixon that she's "never seen in a child his age before". Coming from a teacher who has taught children his age for over 20 years, I was taken aback.

   Then I became driven. I was driven to find answers for my baby boy. I needed to know if Nixon was just acting out or if he had legitimate issues.
   So I started with making an appointment with his doctor. For a referral with a behaviorist. We had that first appointment last week. We saw a nurse practitioner, who despite giving us the referral, said there's nothing wrong with Nixon because he had a "perfectly lovely conversation with me just now." A conversation that was totally about what he was interested in. Which is not something we have concerns about.

   After that, and scheduling our subsequent follow-up appointments, I turned to reading. Because knowledge is power and I'm getting the feeling if I don't have pages and pages of concerns/issues/triggers things like that about Nixon, he won't get the help he needs.

    My heart knows something's not right with him. I know he's trying as hard as he can, but sometimes his brain just doesn't work like everyone else.

    Now I fight, to make sure he's not seen as just an angry child. And he isn't given up on by his teachers. I know he's somewhere on the autism spectrum. If I could, I'd just accept everyone telling me he's acting out because he was home with just us and he's having problems adjusting. Or that it's because he's an only child and he can't share. Or that I'm a parent that can't accept that my child is less than perfect.
   But none of that is true. The truth is, I've had worries about Nixon being on the spectrum for years. Doctors wrote it off as things he'll grow out off. Well, he's not outgrowing some things and the list of my concerns is getting longer.

   I know there's nothing wrong with Nixon. Autism/Aspergers, they are not something to hide from. It needs to be embraced and understood. There's nothing wrong with Nixon, he just functions different from other kids his age, but it's not always something he can control.

   It's hard to write this out, because there's no "diagnosis" yet. Mac and I worry that people will treat Nixon differently if they learn he's on the spectrum. I don't know how family members will take the news, if there is news. Some of his issues won't be things he "outgrows".

   If there's an upside to this, it's that Nixon has two parents in his corner who are offering him love and support and facing the adults at his school as a united front. We won't just give up on him and we can't not help him!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

School days and school woes

    Nixon finished his first week of school last week. He had Monday off, for Labor Day, but went 4 days in a row after that. He's adjusting but it's difficult. We've had a couple phone calls from his teacher, he's tattled on himself for bad behavior and we've been working on his behavior at home.
   The problem is: how do you correct behaviors that you never see at home? That's our current situation. We're practicing things at home and working on developing a routine but it's only been a week, we can't work miracles.

    We've resorting to a system of stickers and a reward (aka bribe). He needed 8 yellow or green smiley face stickers to get his reward. He did get it, yesterday. He had 4(!!) green days in a row!

    After sitting down and talking to him, after one kind of awful day and one phone call to Mac, and really got to the deeper issue he's having. It's so awful I can't even share it with you!
    I'm kidding.
    The heart of the issue is he misses us. He wants to go home and see us. And, if you knew how his preschool used to react to his tantrums, his current behavior makes sense. His preschool would call us to come pick him up if he was acting especially awful, which he did (A LOT) after I started working full-time. Little did I know then that it was all a ploy to get more time with me. Which also explains why we NEVER see the behaviors he does at school, at home.
    After finding this out, and explaining that in Kindergarten he won't get sent home unless he's being suspended (oh yeah, that's already been mentioned to us....more than once, by the teacher and the administrators), I came up with a solution. We took 3 selfies, as a family, and Nixon got to pic 2 of them. I printed out the 2 pictures he chose, put them in his backpack and told him if he starts to miss us he can ask for the pictures at school. I also explained it to his teacher, who seemed shockingly impressed with my solution.

    As I said, he had 4 good days.
    Then came today and he had an awful day! He was disruptive (usually his starting point of missing us), he was removed to another room where he threw things at the teachers aid and then the vice principal. Then he spit at them! Fucking SPIT, y'all! I can not for the life of me stand spit! It's vile, gross and incredibly disrespectful.
    Finally, after a struggle to sit in a chair, he finally calmed down and hugged the teachers aid. He then went over to the vice principal, said he needed a hug because he missed his mommy and asked her for a hug.
   During the phone call, from the vice principal, I listened. I didn't say a word. Until she was done and she said something about Nixon missing me. Then I cut in and explained the photo-in-the-backpack plan. She had no idea what I was talking about and I was more than a little annoyed! There seems to be a communication breakdown and Nixon is getting the short end of the stick as a result.

     The vice principal also informed me the school's councilor is going to work with Nixon and get a behavior guide of some sore going. I'm a little pissed because I had asked for a conference during the first week of school and still no response. I hate to say it, but this school is not going to like me because I'm not going to let them run the show much longer. This momma bear is getting ready to growl!

     I'm other news: Nixon recently started complaining of leg pains. Yesterday, when he woke up (at nearly 7am on a school day!), he hugged me and I thought he felt taller. So I got the tape measure and he is now a smidge under 4 feet tall. At his doctor's appointment last month he was 46.5 inches!

Monday, September 15, 2014

The ugly truth, facing my past and telling Nixon the's one giant grey area

     This isn't exactly a normal Random blog. This one is a deeper topic brought on by recent events in the NFL world.
     Abuse. Domestic and child abuse. Sadly it has become a topic that Mac and I find ourselves struggling to address with Nixon.
     I asked Mac this morning, how and if we should talk to Nixon about child abuse. Nixon is in kindergarten now and that means he is around a variety of children from different backgrounds, we don't know any of his classmates families. Mac's answer was that we don't take the easy way out and we talk to him about this topic like we have with any topic honest on a level he will understand.
     But how honest is too honest. Do we tell him about our own childhood?. Do we not tell him, to protect his view of our parents? We often joke about our childhoods, but the truth is we suffered some serious shit at the hands of our parents. Were we growing up today, instead of in the 80's and 90's, there is a real chance at least one of us (Mac and myself) would have been removed from our family by the authorities.
     I don't shy away from my past and the shitty situations I have overcome. A physically abusive father, an emotionally distant (practically emotionally absent) mother, a physically abusive first boyfriend and my ex-fiance became emotionally and mentally abusive as our young love matured into an adult relationship. To say I was a broken and abused mess would be an understatement.
     I have long said, physical abuse is the least of my issues. Bruises, broken bones, welts and scratches all heal and while the memory of them remain, even scar, it is the mental and emotional abuse that haunts me to this day. I am not saying physical abuse is easy, I am saying the damage does not last as long, if you are lucky. I struggle daily with trust. The men I loved and the father I wanted to trust did a real number on me. I was beaten and told it was my own fault for making him do it. I was slapped and backhanded because another guy looked at me. I did nothing but look in the same direction. My ex backhanded me before I knew what was happening. I was 14 or 15 at the time. I was in a shitty family situation and an even shittier relationship.
     I was sexually active with boy, T. I remember thinking I might be pregnant. I told T and he slapped me,  called me a whore, and after I fell (tripped over something on the ground backing away from him) he kicked me in the abdomen and ribs multiple times. When I got home, late less than 5 minutes for my curfew, my dad beat me. I tried telling my mom about what T had done to me. She walked away and told me I probably had it coming, whatever it was. I do not know if I was pregnant or not. I am pretty sure I had internal bleeding but never went to a doctor.

      Mac tells stories of growing up in an Asian household and kneeling on rice as a punishment. He was sent to the backyard to choose his switch for a whooping.
     We grew up in a time when neighbors and family members were instructed that ass whoppings were allowed and these adults could do it if our parents were not around.

      I saw a shrink once. We barely scratched the surface of my issues, but after just 2 sessions he told me I am far more well-adjusted than most people with like pasts are. I'm pretty sure he was full of shit because well-adjusted is NOT a term I would use to describe myself.

      My ex, M. I spent 9 years of my life co-dependant on him. He was tragically damaged and I needed to be needed. After we moved in together and started growing into our adult selves, we weren't the same teenagers we were when we met. I had learned I didn't want to live with an addict again (Dad is an alcoholic) and he was hiding a gambling addiction....poorly. We fought often and epically. I threw dishes and he swore he'd change. He struck me. Once.
     I was stunned. We'd never been physically abusive to each other. I left for a few hours. I came back and he had notched up the emotional abuse, making me think I wanted him to hit me because it was the only kind of love I ever felt from my father. What an evil fucking dick he morphed into. I stayed because I believed what he said. I stayed because I was afraid to live on my own. I stayed because he helped me financially. I stayed because his words spoke the words I said to myself every day. I stayed when the cheating happened, but I never admitted to him I knew. I feigned ignorance and kept my focus on the degree I was going to school for. When the words coming from his mouth were bitter and ugly about the degree I was earning and the goals I wanted to achieve, I tuned out. It took 2 years of lies, his painful words, his emotional manipulations, to earn my degree. Less than a month later I left my hometown, my family, M and everything I knew. I fell back to him and his lies more than once those early months away from all I knew.
     And then, I just let it all go.

     He crossed a line and I was unforgiving. I went home when my dad was hospitalized after having suffered a stroke. I stopped to talk to a couple friends, M was there. While listening to me describe the insurance mess and my dad's weakened state, M says "Well, no offense, but it's not like he has that many brain cells left to damage after all his years of drinking."  No offense?? A stunned and awkward silence fell and I left.  I could say things like that, a few years later my dad and I will say almost those exact words to each other, but M.....M could not! It wasn't his dad, or even his family. That day I left and never looked back. I mourned the boy M was and the vile man he'd become.
    I found my backbone.

    Sadly, not every abuse victim does. Sadly they stay, for whatever the reason.
      I'm struggling how to tell Nixon about abuse. How to tell him about my own past and why sometimes I read a story or watch TV and feel tears welling up. How to tell him about the pictures of the marks on Adrian Peterson's child, put there at the hand of his father. How to tell him he might have a friend in his life who lives a life like that. How to tell him his parents know the pain that little boy, a year younger than Nixon, feels. How to tell him about the lies I heard about myself from the men I loved. How to tell him about the fear deep inside me, the fear that I'm my father's daughter and I will eventually do to Nixon what was done to me. I'm struggling with how to still be strong for my child and not pollute the love he has for his grandparents.
     I know I need to be honest with him. He's not old enough to hear tales from Mac and I's childhoods. But some day I'll have to tell him. Someday he'll see the damaged goods mom once was.
      For now, I guess telling about about abuse and the types of will be good enough.    I adore Nixon and I've made peace with my past. As difficult as it was, I'm not getting any younger and holding on to that kind of anger, bitterness and hatred was not good for me. I made peace with my parents and the role they played in my fucked-up life.     I'm very angry that people are judging Ray Rice's wife for marrying him and staying. Anyone who has never been in any kind of an abusive relationship can quite easily look at her and say she's dumb for staying. They say she should have left, if anything happens now, it's her fault for staying.     Sadly, she may think she will never do better. As awful as it is, she may feel that staying and dealing with things at home is better than leaving him and the life style he gives her.      It's hard to start over with almost nothing. I've done it. It's one helluva struggle. I had to dig deep and go through some shit, on my own, before I started to accept and believe I was a better person for those experiences. 

    This blog was supposed to be about my struggle to tell Nixon the truth about abuse, but it turns out I needed a little therapeutic outlet.